Marie Antoinette, in a book the love letters (censored) to the Swedish count de Fersen-

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Marie Antoinette, in a book the love letters (censored) to the Swedish count de Fersen-

from Stefano Montefiori

“I cannot conclude without telling you, my tender friend, that I love you to madness”: thus the queen, wife of Louis XVI, in the erased passages of the letters, deciphered with X-rays

FROM OUR CORRESPONDENTPARIS – Of the love between the queen Maria Antonietta and the Swedish count Axel de Fersen it was known thanks to folk tales, the memoirs of the American ambassador Gouverneur Morris and cornerstones of pop culture such as the manga Lady Oscar or the Sofia Coppola film. There was a lack of historical evidence, which now comes thanks to letters in possession of the French national archives. Many parts of those letters had been censored; thanks to X-ray fluorescence technique, the team of Anne Michelin (scientist of the National Museum of Natural History) managed to make them readable.

For example, on January 4, 1792, the queen wrote to Count Fersen: “I cannot conclude without telling you, my dear and tender friend, that I love you madly and that I can never, ever, stay a moment without adoring you“. The deleted phrases contain continuous “I adore you”, “you are perfect”, a sign of a passion that stands the test of time (the queen and the count had known each other then for at least 15 years).

“We knew Marie Antoinette and Fersen loved each other, but we had no written record of them. It is the first time we see it written by the queen’s hand, and it is also the first time that Fersen has expressed his love “, says Isabelle Aristide-Hastir, head of the private section of the national archives and author of the book Marie Antoinette and Axel de Fersen – Secret Correspondence which will be released in France at the end of October.

Marie Antoinette had her letters destroyed while Fersen had kept them. The count’s descendants donated them to the French national archives. And it was probably he who erased the love phrases, to try to hide the relationship with the queen. The archives had at their disposal the pages written by Marie Antoinette in Fersen, and copies (made by the count himself) of the letters he sent to the queen. Anne Michelin claims to have found it a substantial coincidence between the ink of the scribbles and that used by Fersen in other letters. Correspondence is about their love but also the need for attempt a second escape. After the storming of the Bastille, Count Fersen had already participated in the failed escape attempt of King Louis XVI and the Queen, managing to get them out of the Tuileries prison on 20 June 1791, but the royals were arrested in Varennes. The count tried to the last to convince Marie Antoinette to escape again, but in vain. The last queen of the Ancien Régime was guillotined on October 16, 1793, nine months after her husband.

October 2, 2021 (change October 2, 2021 | 21:50)

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